So, if you are surprised in any way that the Knicks did not advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, then you are either delusional or do not live in reality (which is the same thing, but I'll give you the benefit or your doubt!). To be clear, I am a New Yorker, born and raised, and while I do not have an official team I root for, I will say that I secretly hoped the Knicks would at least advance to the Eastern Conference Finals... I mean this was their season. They finally had some good chemistry, they won 54 games and a division title and the first postseason series win in 13 years, ended #2 in the East, and even gave the defending champions a run for their money during the regular season. So what happened? There were some classic mistakes made during this playoff series that, if we can learn from, we can use as lessons that will guide us in our every day life.Lesson 1 - Good is Not Enough
If you know basketball, then you know that defense wins games. You can score all the points in the world, but if you can't stop your opponent from scoring, then you will always lose. The truth is that the Knicks played well defensively in this series, but THIS IS THE PLAYOFFS and they didn't make stops! It's as simple as that. To put it more plainly.. They played good defense but, unfortunately, good was not enough. Jim Collins once said in his best selling book, "From Good to Great", that good is the enemy of great! If you continue to be comfortable with good, you will never get to the place in life that you deserve to be in! Stop striving or being comfortable with good. Aim for greatness in everything you do
Lesson 2 - Hustle Harder Than Your Opponent
While the Knicks All-Star center, Tyson Chandler, was being quoted in the media, Indiana's All-Star center was getting buckets. Yes, folks that will be the last time Roy Hibbert and "buckets" will be referred to in the same sentence...ever. There were many plays where Tyson Chandler was getting outplayed and simply out-hustled in the paint. I can sit here and tell you that in life, this is different but that would not be the case! No matter what you are doing and what you are striving for, there will always be someone who wants the same thing. The victor will ALWAYS be the person who wants it more... As the saying goes, "Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard!"
Lesson 3 - Feed Your Strengths but Improve on Your Weaknesses
Mike Woodson has been out-coached throughout this entire series. Point. Blank. This is pretty controversial to say, but Woodson works for Carmelo Anthony, and Frank Vogel works for the Indiana Pacers franchise. Vogel has been drawing up play after critical play, making Woodson's squad look like a bunch of amateurs. Meanwhile, Woodson's "just let 'em play" attitude may have worked to keep him his job, but does not translate to the playoffs especially now that expectations are set. Make sure that as you are striving to be successful in life, you are not only feeding your strengths but improving on your weaknesses. Being too dependent on one aspect of your ability can be crippling to your success!
Lesson 4 - Make Better Choices
The Knicks shot selection was putrid at best. This can be attributed to good defense by the Pacers, but the Knicks have been suffering from this bad-shot-taking syndrome all season. In life, if you keep doing what you've always done, you will keep getting what you've always gotten. Make sure that you are not allowing your bad habits to continue by not addressing them head on. The choices you make in life will decide which direction your life will go. Make better choices, and you will have better outcomes.. It is not rocket science!
Lesson 5 - Know When a Strategy Is Not Working Then Switch It Up
Now that shot selection was talked about, it's only right to discuss J.R. Smith, as he is the king of kings when it comes to taking (and missing) bad shots. Smith has a load of talent and is one of the best shooters in the league, bar none, but when he shoots 7 for 23, the Knicks won't ever win. Sometimes in life, when we know that something has worked in the past, we hold on to that memory and are reluctant to let it go. Know and understand that change is an inevitable part of life. Yes, we need to be persistent, but at the same time, our persistence shouldn't cloud our judgment. When it's obvious that a strategy is no longer working, don't be afraid to let it go and try something different.
Lesson 6 - Use Your Common Sense
This goes back to Mike Woodson's risky decisions in this series. In game 4, he started Kenyon Martin to match the Pacers bigs - which was the first mistake - but then only played Prigioni a grand total of 3 minutes. A player that was starting throughout the series and is a top defensive option in the rotation is only given 3 minutes in a playoff game? That doesn't make any sense. Neither does Jason Kidd still averaging over 20 minutes a game... And while we're on Jason Kidd, didn't he play like Jerry West would have in this series currently? LOL! (Just kidding, pun intended) But Mike Woodson chose to stick with the Future Hall of Famer, loading him up on minutes as he went 0 for 700,000,000. In life, you have to make sure you are not over-complicating things. Don't make life more difficult than it needs to be. Use your common sense. Some things are just obvious.
Lesson 7 - Ask and Accept Help
The number one question I asked myself during this series was, "Why are the Knicks playing Isolation offense?!" It's basic basketball. Move the ball, spread the defense, take the open shot. Yes, Melo is the best player on the court, but this is the playoffs... As soon as he stops dribbling, he has four players converging on him. If you treat life as if you are the only one in it, then you will surely go through some unnecessary hardships. Yes, this is your journey and yes, this is your life to live, but rest assured, there are people in this world who are going or have gone through what you're going through or striving for. They say experience is the best teacher, but don't think that you can't learn from others. Ask and Accept Help! Sometimes that right guidance can help you avoid some painful mistakes.
Lesson 8 - Build Off of Your Momentum (Please Don't Kill Your Vibe)
The Amare' Stoudemire experiment has officially failed. He is out for the last month of the season and the first round of the playoffs but he plays now - why?? Because he makes $21 million a year - simply that. He isn't playing bad in any sense, but the starters and the bench have a rhythm so when you add another piece to the puzzle, it's going to take some time to get used to. Again, this is the playoffs and as Sweet Brown would say... "Ain't Nobody Got No Time for That!" Sometimes, if something is working right for us, we have the tendency to try to change it just because. Make sure you are not self-sabotaging your own success. If you have momentum, keep feeding it and keep doing what has gotten you this far. You can't decide to change your working strategy at the last minute, especially if it's crunch time. To paraphrase the words of Mr. Kendrick Lamar...'Please don't kill your vibe!'
Lesson 9 - Have Some Heart
Does this even need an explanation? Anyone watching this series can tell which team wanted it more, and I'll leave it at that. But when it comes to your dreams and aspirations, you must be willing to have the courage to take what you deserve! You have to want your success as bad as you want to breathe! You have to make the commitment to achieving your dreams by any means necessary! You can't say you want something and not be willing to put in the work to attain it! Have Some Heart! NOTHING CAN STOP YOU BUT YOU!!
Lesson 10 - Stop Making Excuses
Lastly, already some Knicks fans have begun to make excuses for why their team lost. Some say that it's the refs from the previous series that caused the Knicks their inability to close out the Celtics when they should have, resulting in them losing Game 1 of this series after a day and a half of rest, and subsequently starting the process of them chasing the series. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda!! It is what it is!! When you get into the habit of making excuses, you are stopping the process of being able to learn from your mistakes! Make sure you are owning up to your missteps and using them as the steppingstone to your success! Excuses are like belly buttons: everyone has one and they ain't worth nothin'.
Ash’Cash is a Business Consultant, Motivational Speaker, Financial Expert and the author of Mind Right, Money Right: 10 Laws of Financial Freedom. For more information, please visit his website,www.IamAshCash.com